Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Taipei March 2010 - Day 1 (Eat, Eat and ... Eat)

Cuisine is often what set a particular culture apart and the type of food being served can also reflects the history and traditions of a certain society. The best way to understand a culture is to experience it (or eat through it in this case) and to blend into the daily lives and routines of that culture as much as possible. For my recent Taipei trip (4D2N), it was mostly focus on food, be it traditional or touristy, because both reflect on the overall social and culinary cultures. Thanks to our relatives in Taipei, my mom and I got to experience the most out of our 4 days stay. [+ Day 2, Day 3 & Day 4]





This short trip started after a very short flight and a boring ride to our hotel. I picked the same Hotel QUOTE Taipei I stayed last time because I simply enjoyed my stay so much that I got to return. I am not going to go into details on the hotel, you can check out my previous post. The key differences this time was that I got a bigger room with 2 beds, bigger bathroom and ...



... we got this lovely Nespresso machine in our room!!


The very first thing I did was to make myself a nice cup of espresso before I even unpack!


The next thing I did was to charge my iPhone on this wonderful B&W speaker dock! Very good amenities for business traveller, jet setters and iPhone users!


Ooops, time for meeting! Work argh!!! I almost got carried away and fell into the temptation of Thai heavenly bed with this lovely yet expensive reindeer.


On my way to work, I intentionally took a detour because I wanted to take the small streets to checkout the little street vendors. After several visits to Taipei, one will realize that man of the great eats are found not on the main road but in the smaller streets and hard to find alleyways. There were many indeed including this mobile fruits vendor.


Well, I did not feel like fruits at this moment, I felt like bubble tea!!! The tea flavor was way strong than those found in Hong Kong for sure.


Many street food vendors are family business and they would come out either in the morning or lunch to catch the crowds. This couple (I assumed they are) looked very skillful in making those Pepper Biscuits / Bun and I was so tempted to grab one but with my bubble tea in hand, I think I should wait because I still have the Night Market to go later tonight! yeah! Shilin Night Market! (a bit of a spoiler bit I was a but disappointed with the night market ... I will explain later ... )


One of the first things you realize in Taipei is the number of scooters on the road, scooters are one of the MAJOR mode of transportation and there are way too many in my opinion. There is always a few surrounding you no matter you are crossing the streets or walking on the sidewalks! So watch out! There is always one around the corner!


==========

After an uneventful meeting, it was time for dinner! Ding Tai Fung was the choice and it was a good choice indeed despite it being very touristy. Many locals also come here to eat as well. The one we went to was not the main outlet but the SOGO @ Tian Mu location.


Crowded it was but very comfortable indeed. Service was great by the way.


We ordered quite a lot. We started with some cold appetizer, Spicy Cucumbers, Braised Dry Bean Curd and Drunken Chicken. They were wonderful, not only nicely presented but flavors were very appetizing.


One of the surprising appetizers was the Honey Bitter Melon (White). With traces of sweetness and only a slight bitter flavor, I found it to be rather refreshing indeed.


Next came the Xiao Loong Bao (aka XLB). The outer dough was very thin and this bit size was better than many of the many found in Hong Kong which were huge! Size does matter and sometimes smaller is better!


As mentioned before, one of the key elements for a good XLB is the juice inside. To test it we can pick up the XLB by the tip and swing it a bit to see if there are any meat juice inside. By doing so we can test the elasticity of the dough layer as well.


We also ordered something new (at least to me) which was Steamed Fish Dumpling. Wow, I loved it! Not only was it juicy inside, the flavors were great. you got to try it!


The Sweet and Sour Soup was alright, we ordered the non-spicy one so not very exciting at all.


Vegetables Dumplings were good too but the Crab Roe XLBs were only alright. I prefer the normal XLB.


Spicy Chili Oil Shrimp Wonton was alright, a bit more chili sauce would be nice. The Sticker Rice Dumplings on the other hand were wonderful! A surprisingly delightful indeed! Loved it!


I forgot what the desserts were called but they were like steamed cakes with the texture were very gluey and high in elasticity. Order all the desserts and give them a try! why not? Never too much sweets! :)


============

Shilin Night Market

When you are surrounded by food, especially street food, I forgot the fact that I just finished dinner. Who cares, my stomach was telling me to go ahead and who am I to argue with myself right? I was literally excited! However, as mentioned, I was a bit disappointed because almost all stalls were selling the same stuff! Oyster Omelet, Sticky Tofu, Squid Soup, fried noodles, Grilled Sausages and more Sticky Tofu. I love all those (and had many of those too) but I was hoping for more varieties to be honest. (My last day visit to 九份 Jiǔ Fèn was more exciting because of the various street foods available)

Street Food is one of the key parts of Taiwan's vibrant food culture, people gather around to enjoy snacks and treats off the street as part of their social activity. With so many street food vendors around town, one thing I am pretty sure, gas (portable gas tanks) suppliers are in good business with all those gas-powered stoves requiring refills almost on a daily basis!


One of the first item I tried was the famous Chicken Slap! Oh yes it was HUGE! and the lineup was so long! I think it was as big as my head!


After this huge chicken slap, it was time for sometime to cool my throat down! It was time for some Bitter Melon Juice!


With some honey, it was not as bitter as one would expect especially the white kind of bitter melon they used.


After the juice, it was time to try other stuff as well! There were so many stalls, but one of each kinds would be enough I think.


The Shilin Night Market extends beyond the covered market place, it extends all the way over to the other block across the street and offer more than just food!


I had more than my stomach can handle on this first day/night in Taipei, it was time to sleep! I intentionally asked my relatives to drop us off a block away from the hotel so we can WALK back! ... Day 2 was another day of culinary adventure!!!! woohoo!


Day 1 >> Taipei March 2010 - Day 1 (Eat, Eat and ... Eat)
Day 2 >> Taipei March 2010 - Day 2 (More Food please ... )
Day 3 >> Taipei March 2010 - Day 3 (I have a 3rd Stomach!)
Day 4 >> Taipei March 2010 - Day 4 (More Food and Cuties Spotted!)




Day 1
+ Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4



- End of Day 1 -

9 comments:

BeefNoGuy said...

Looking forward to reading more!

I'm not too crazy about Shih Lin anymore as I find it overcrowded, too many tourists (mostly from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea) so I tend to prefer the more old school night markets like 寧夏夜市 which is probably my favorite one in town. But if I go back to Shihlin, I always have the Shenjian Bao, there's a branch of Ay Chung noodle there, and of course the Rao He Night Market Pepper Bun which I love to bits and did a writeup on.

jisampedro said...

Great post, looking forward to read more. Nice to remember the flavors of Taipei street when I went there in December 2008. Wanna go back there for sure, love it :)

Jason said...

@BeefNoGuy, actually my hotel location is closer to 寧夏夜市 but Shilin Night Market seems to be a place one has to at least visit once. Next time I would definitely visit 寧夏夜市! The food market at 九份 Jiǔ Fèn was way better because of the varieties!

@jisampedro: thanks for dropping by! yeah ... smell of food almost everywhere!!!! (+smell of exhaust from those scooters)

Jason said...

I am sorry, it should be 遼寧夜市 instead 寧夏夜市! Thanks Teresa for the correction! :)

BeefNoGuy said...

Jason, 遼寧 street does have some interesting eats, although it is a lot smaller. There's a restaurant I went to called 鵝肉城 on that street (wrote about it too) that has fantastic seafood, local prawns sashimi, smoked goose, and simple stir fry like 苦瓜炒鹹蛋. Reminds me a little bit of those seafood places in Sai Kung or Lamma Island long long time ago, no fancy decor, just great seafood.

寧夏夜市 focuses on original Taipei city street food from 50+ years ago. You will find maybe some of the best versions of oyster omlette, a great sa cha beef specialist vendor, a deep fried taro/duck yolk/pork floss snack vendor (very popular), and a thick egg puff dessert with red bean inside (hard to miss, it has long lines).

I love 九份! Great pineapple cake and tong yuan...In fact ChaXiuBao was there a few months ago (per his flickr album), I think he ate and sampled better local fare than I did.

Jason said...

@BeefNoGuy: yeah 九份 is lovely and sampled plenty of local food items as well. I spent quite some time at one of those tea houses built near the edge of the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean ... peaceful and wonderful! It will be in my Day 4 :) ... I will go again for sure just for the sake of it! :)

Jin said...

All these very familiar sights make me wanna fly back to Taipei. So many Ding Tai Fungs around the world, but Taiwan's is still the best. I can eat multiple servings of that braised dry bean curd and vegetable dumplings! And please don't get me started on night market food!

MKL said...

Hey, totally agree with you on the scooters, way too many here :) But the food is great, ah? I've been to Shilin once and I felt it's too crowded. It was hard to walk, people push from everywhere. Not my thing. I prefer smaller night markets, I usually go to one in Banciao.

ximoon said...

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http://www.my3q.com/home2/327/ximoon/72104.phtml
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